Anambra PDP struggles with intra-party distractions ahead of guber poll

Oseloka H. Obaze

The emergence of Dr. Oseloka Obaze as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State is still raising internal dust less than three weeks to the poll.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State does not seem to be in a hurry to overcome challenges that have always robbed it of its political fortunes. Since it lost political power in 2003 because of internal crisis, the party has continued to defy prescriptions that could bring stability and return it to the winning path. Events have proven that at every interval of electioneering, there were always stories about issues that will ultimately affect the party’s chances in the state.

With less than one month to the November 18 governorship election in the state, the new story is that members of the party have returned to the trenches because of disagreement over the eligibility of the governorship candidate, Dr Oseloka Obaze. A segment of the party led by Chief Ken Emeakayi, who has continued to lay claims to the headship of the party in the state, is insisting on the substitution of Obaze on the claims that he is not a registered member of the PDP in Anambra.

Obaze, a former Secretary to State Government under the administration of Mr. Peter Obi and briefly under incumbent Willie Obiano, emerged candidate of the PDP after a governorship primary that involved the likes of Dr Alex Obiogbulu and Dr Patrick Ifeanyi Uba among others.

Although the process leading to his emergence last month came under heavy criticism from the aspirants, especially Uba, who had equally gone to court to challenge it, the insistence of the national leadership of the party not to entertain any complaints arising from the primary, appears to have checkmated further opposition.

But while other parties are settling down, ironing out grey areas and furthering their campaigns for the elections, combatants in the PDP are settling to, perhaps do the last fight in the supremacy battle about the candidature of Obaze.

On Monday, October 16, the party held the flag off rally for the 2017 governorship campaigns in the state. The venue was the All Saints’ Cathedral Field Onitsha. However, while the national leadership of the party led by its Caretaker Committee Chairman and Secretary, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ben Obi, among others, converged at the venue to solicit support for Obaze, other remnants of the party, including Emeakayi and Senator Annie Okonkwo, were at different locations holding separate rallies.

While Emeakayi led hundreds of party faithful to the Dr Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka for a parallel rally, Okonkwo’s group held theirs at the Emmaus house, also in Awka. The rallies, it was gathered, were part of the agitations against the candidature of Obaze. Okonkwo has however kept his reasons for holding a parallel rally close to his chest.

But Emeakayi, who later spoke to The Guardian , said the rally his group held was an attempt to draw attention to an alleged illegality being perpetrated in the party by some desperate individuals to continue to rob PDP of chances of ruling the state.

Claiming that he remains the Chairman of PDP in Anambra by the election held on May 10, 2015 to serve for a tenure of four years in line with the constitution of the party, he stated that Obaze neither registered in his ward, local government nor at the state level, stressing “as long as some segments of the party are hell bent on foisting him, we will ensure that we withdraw support of the members when the window allowed for substitution elapses.”

Although his group did not present any candidate during the rally, he said there was no intention to do so especially considering the fact that the party was now united under the headship of Makarfi.

He added however, “That notwithstanding, we insist that the right things should be done. The national leadership of the party has been misled into submitting the name of Obaze as the governorship candidate. When that came to our knowledge, we made our position known that the party has been misled because Obaze is not a registered member of the party in the state.

“On June 22, during our state executive meeting in Awka under my leadership, Obaze came to us to declare his interest to contest the governorship with our party and there we asked Chairman of Ogbaru local government, if he had been duly registered and he stated that he was not a registered member of the party. In company with Obaze at that meeting were former chairman of the party Dr Fred Odua and Mr Fidel Okafor, who was Political Adviser to former governor Peter Obi. There we told him to follow due process and register with the party. We even assured him that we will help secure a waiver for him should he do the needful.

“After the meeting, he (Obaze) sent a text to thank me but remarked that we exposed his non-membership before his subordinates. I was however surprised when he started claiming in an interview that he registered in January. So we decided to summon another meeting, which comprised the Chairman and Secretary of his ward on July 20. They came to the meeting with their membership register, which they tendered before us and with that, we certified it and attached our petition to tell the national leadership why Obaze should not contest.

“We told them that the person they are presenting is not a member of the party. But some people are bent on having him to run. They have insisted that the national leadership has given him waiver and we are askling, what kind of waiver is that we know nothing about?

“So what we did by the parallel rally was to call attention to the fact that there is an illegality going on, which the national leadership has refused to address. They want to impose somebody who is not a member of the party on the people when there are many qualified members who aspired for the position. They should save the party of the agony by substituting his name with any of the aspirants like Stella Oduah, Ifeanyi Uba or Alex Obiogbulu who registered with the party.”

Emeakayi threatened that his group will openly declare that the “PDP is not contesting in the governorship election and we will tell our members to support other candidates of their choice should the national leadership allow the window opened for substitution to elapse without replacing Obaze.”

Meanwhile, Obiogbulu is claiming to be the “rightful governorship candidate” produced by the party for the election. One of his supporters, Emeka Igbokwe told The Guardian that the national leadership of the party should consider using him to replace Obaze, “having emerged the first runner up in the governorship primary.” He further argued that the exposure over Obaze’s registration status with the party indicated clearly that the governorship primary was devoid of equal playing ground by those who conducted the exercise.

Another source however attributed the present imbroglio to a continuation of the struggle for the soul of the party between those who supported the Makarfi leadership in the state and those who worked for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in his failed bid to capture the soul of the party at the national level. It is believed that though the Supreme Court has adjudicated the matter in favour of Makarfi, those on the side of Sheriff are still regretting their loss and are prepared to work for the failure of the party in the election to demonstrate their anger.

“That was why they stayed away from the PDP campaign flag off. All those who had attended meetings called by the Sheriff faction when the leadership crisis of the PDP was on, have not believed that the matter is over and all those who believed that they own the PDP are not working for the party in the state. Otherwise why are certain persons still holding animosity against each other in the state,” the source stated.

Another source said the grievance of certain party members was borne out of what they perceived as “Peter Obi’s dominance in the party few years after he joined the PDP from APGA and the preference for the candidate he produced by the party leadership.” The source said the plot was to whittle down the rising influence of the former APGA governor in the PDP and the state in general.

Former Minister and state caretaker committee secretary of Anambra PDP, Iyom Josephine Anenih has however dismissed the Emeakayi group as “attention seekers,” stressing that their actions smacks of “greed and quest for monetary inducement.”

Wondering why party faithful in the state would not for once work together and recover the political control of the state, she said it has become a recurring decimal in the state chapter to churn out scuffles to scuttle its chances in elections and enrich themselves.

According to her, “When he (Emeakayi) is saying all these things, the gullible members of the party will be hooked into their game. You don’t need rocket science to tell you that they are into business to milk people because that is what happens at every election.

“Is he claiming that it is his duty to clear or grant waiver to Obaze? Obaze has been granted waiver by the national leadership of the party to contest the governorship election. It is also the duty of the national leadership to decide who will fly its flag and not that of any individual. Obaze had gone through the screening and was cleared.

“During the primary, all the 326 wards represented by their people spoke and said Obaze is their preferred candidate; there was an appeal panel set up after the governorship primary, which also cleared the candidate, so why are they creating confusion and crisis to scuttle an idea which time has come?

“Unless the party has no power any longer to grant waiver, then we can say what we have done is illegal, otherwise, I see what they are doing as playing a spoilers game. The point is that they will go hungry if the PDP is peaceful because it is through acrimony that they make their money.”

On the claim by Emeakayi that he “remains the state chairman of the party,” Anenih stated that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party dissolved state executives in nine states including Anambra and appointed the Dr A.B.C Nwosu caretaker committee to midwife the party in the state in preparation to a state congress to elect new executives.

“We are only here temporarily and making sure that things are put together for the congress. For now, his executive has been dissolved but if he still wants to answer chairman, he should wait till the congress to be voted in,” she said, adding “the distractions notwithstanding, PDP will reclaim Anambra State.”



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